Artificial intelligence (AI) applications are progressing by leaps and bounds today. But are we getting any closer to understanding human intelligence or replicating it in machines?
That is what the Center for Brains, Minds & Machines (CBMM) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seeks to do. CBMM is a multi-institutional NSF (National Science Foundation) Science and Technology Center headquartered at MIT, dedicated to developing a computationally based understanding of human intelligence and establishing an engineering practice based on that understanding.
CBMM has around 20 faculty members from institutions such as MIT, Harvard University, Stanford University and Rockefeller University. They are a combination of neuroscientists ,cognitive scientists and computer scientists. Neuroscientists study the brain, cognitive scientists look into the mind, and the computer scientists work with machines. CBMM is about collaboration across these three disciplines.
OpenGov had the privilege of conversing with Prof Tomaso A. Poggio, Director at CBMM. He is also the Eugene McDermott Professor at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; and Member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT; and since 2000, a member of the faculty of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Prof Poggio leads a program at MIT that counts amongst its alumni several of today’s AI leaders, including Demis Hassabis, cofounder of DeepMind, Amnon Shashua, cofounder of the autonomous driving tech company Mobileye, and Christof Koch, President and Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute.
We asked Prof Poggio if there is any commonly agreed upon definition of intelligence and based on that, what would be the definition of artificial intelligence. He replied that people have yet to fully agree on a definition of intelligence.
One relatively standard definition is that the Turing Test, which essentially says if you see intelligence you know it. If machines cannot be distinguished from a human, then they are intelligent.
Prof Poggio pointed out that the interesting part which not many people realise is that the Turing test for intelligent machines is effectively a definition of human intelligence.
“I don’t think there is a definition of intelligence. I think that’s in a sense a meaningless question. Because there are so many different forms of intelligence. A computer that is better than humans at doing additions, is that intelligent? Super-intelligent?” he said.
“When people think about intelligence or intelligent computers, super-intelligent computers, what they really think about is human intelligence. It could be more memory, faster speed, but human intelligence.”
But if we are saying that a computer is intelligent, even if in a very narrow sense, does it matter how the system is arriving at that thought or action?
Prof Poggio said that one of the basic tenets of computing is that computing is in principle independent of hardware.
“You can have a computer which is made of silicon transistors, you can have a computer which is made of mechanical switches or even hydraulic switches or neuron cells. But they may not be different in what they compute.”
In reality, certain computations are faster in certain types of implementations and this depends on the hardware.
For instance, silicon computers are very good and very fast at particular computations that involve manipulating numbers, whereas our brain is not very good at it. And conversely, computers still struggle to recognise images or speech and cannot do so with low power consumption. They are just getting there though, primarily through data-driven deep learning techniques.
Deep learning attempts to mimic layers of “neurons” in the brain. Each layer combines a set of input values to produce an output value, which in turn is passed on to other layers downstream. Though the idea has been around for decades, explosion in data volumes and improved, cheaper computing power has enabled its widespread implementation during the last decade. And it has led to exponential improvement in areas such as image classification and facial recognition, resulting in the current deafening buzz around AI.
But still an AI system has to be trained with thousands or tens of thousands of images to distinguish a cat from a dog. We humans do not need to see 100,000 images to recognise a cat as a cat. a 3-year old can learn what is a cat from maybe three or four examples. So, we asked Prof Poggio about the potential and limitations of deep learning.
He responded that deep learning can lead to superhuman abilities in certain areas.
“As an example, I am able to find any papers I want with just a few keywords in Google search. This is much better than any human librarian could ever do,” he said. “There are certainly many other applications, where a combination of deep learning and having a lot of labelled data can lead to really superhuman abilities. But they are very specific.”
Today if we can define a task in a narrow enough way, such as recognising images (especially those of a certain type), recognising speech in certain environments, recognising music, playing go, playing chess, driving a car, we can build the technology to perform it.
“What we don’t have is a system that can solve all of these things like a person, maybe none optimally, but all of them at the same time, and with not much training.”
In that case, we should not be worrying too much at the moment about AI taking over jobs, involving creativity, requiring perception?
Prof Poggio is not too worried at the moment. But he added, “At some point, we will make machines that are as intelligent as we are in some meaning that people will agree upon. I think it will take longer than people think, I think we are safe now.”
“One of the reasons is that I don’t think the problem of intelligence is one problem that you solve with one breakthrough. I think the problem of intelligence is many problems and will require many breakthroughs. Different aspects of human intelligence, like what I would say social intelligence, the ability to recognise what other people are thinking, whether they are happy or not, this is a part of the brain, and there is a separate part of the brain which is actually involved in the robotics part. And of course, they interact. But they are also separate.”
He referred to a recent article by Demis Hassabis, one of his former post-docs, saying that the next big breakthroughs in AI is likely to come from neuroscience. That is an idea Demis shares with Prof Poggio and that’s why collaboration is required between AI researchers and neuroscientists.
So, will we see general AI at some point of time, if not in the near future?
The answer is a bit complicated, Prof Poggio replied. He can see systems like Siri or Alexa slowly become more and more useful and intelligent. But if we are talking about having a system that is indistinguishable from a smart secretary in 15 or 20 years time, then the possibility would depend on what we mean by a smart secretary. If we want the smart secretary to be able to perceive human emotions, then it might not happen within the timeframe of another 15 to 20 years.
When asked if we are paying enough attention to the issues that might arise if general intelligence becomes a reality,Prof Poggio replied, “I think we are not paying enough attention to them”.
For instance, technol
ogy is going to take out a lot of jobs. It is already happening. In the US and in parts of Europe, we can see the rise of unrest and populism. But it is not so much immigrants stealing jobs, as it is machines stealing jobs.
“I can see that over the next 20 to 50 years, the jobs that will be safe would be jobs like scientists, engineers on one hand, and jobs like plumbers on the other hand. But in between, jobs like airline pilots, surgeons, tax advisors, financial consultants, they can all be potentially replaced. Replaced does not mean completely eliminated. It’s like the job of being a pilot. Basically today, there are one or two pilots babysitting a computer that is doing the flying. And the same is going to happen for a heart surgeon. Instead of hundred surgeons, you now need 10 (who are assisted by technology.”
New jobs will be created, but maybe not for the same people. If it happens too fast, it will be a problem. A big displacement would mean revolutions and wars. Here, Prof Poggio highlighted thatthe pace of disruption is critical.
Technological developments have caused societal disruption in the past. Horses were replaced by cars. But the disruption was slow enough that there weren’t too many revolutions.
“But this time it may happen faster, it may be more pervasive, I don’t think the tech industry is worrying enough about this. Because, it’s really a socio-political problem. If machines do their work that people do, you have to make sure that people who have lost their jobs are still being paid, can survive and are happy even without a job,” Prof Poggio said.
The fact that it’s not a matter of life and death tomorrow, makes it more difficult in a sense.
Prof Poggio cautioned, “It’s a relatively slow-moving train and by the time you notice it, it might be a bit too late.”
However, the problem can be solved. If people can agree and if there is the requisite political will. But we must take notice of the risks and start acting soon.
SINGAPORE – February 2, 2023 – Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has collaborated with National Geographic CreativeWorks to unveil UNSEEN/SINGAPORE, a campaign that showcases Singapore as a travel destination from the perspective of intrepid photographers from Southeast Asia. Through photography, the campaign includes a virtual exhibition which encourages travellers to explore the city-state’s cultural diversity and hidden spots, by taking a moment to observe the unseen beauty of destination Singapore.
Running from 2 February 2023, UNSEEN/SINGAPORE will showcase a collection of photographic works through a virtual exhibition, captured and curated by six photographers from across Southeast Asia. UNSEEN/SINGAPORE features the works of:
- Amani Azlin from Malaysia
- Tino Renato from Indonesia
- Chanipol Kusolcharttum, better known as “Rockkhound”, from Thailand
- Phạm Gia Tùng from Vietnam
- Gab Mejia from the Philippines
- Jayaprakash Bojan from Singapore
In curating the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE collection, each photographer visited Singapore in mid-2022, covering areas in Singapore that showcase nature, heritage buildings, cultural sites, and art. Each presented their vision of an UNSEEN/SINGAPORE through ways that resonate with their passions and personal experiences.
The photographers ventured across Singapore, going beyond its famous attractions and iconic skyline, to discover spots equally captivating – from charming neighbourhoods to lush and thriving offshore wetlands and a lighthouse at the island’s edge.
“We aim to inspire travellers to Singapore to rediscover the joy of travel once again. One way is to portray our destination in a different light, by helping visitors to see it afresh through another person’s eyes. UNSEEN/SINGAPORE set out to do this, through the lens of talented photographers from Southeast Asia, who tell their journey of discovery through photography. We hope they will inspire a new wave of visitors to discover a Singapore reimagined,” said Mr John Conceicao, Executive Director, Southeast Asia, STB.
“If you want to experience a country, you have to go down a layer below into the more local stuff to get a feel of what the country is. For people who’ve already visited Singapore, they should try and look for some of the unorthodox locations which they probably missed in their previous visits because
there’s a lot more to Singapore with the culture and heritage,” shared Jayaprakash Bojan, a full-time photographer and documentary filmmaker who advocates conservation via visuals and participated in the campaign.
UNSEEN/SINGAPORE is part of STB’s efforts to boost travel recovery through SingapoReimagine, a tourism campaign that highlights new, innovative and unexpected experiences in Singapore to audiences worldwide.
Between January to December 2022, Singapore recorded 6.3 million international visitor arrivals. Visitor arrivals were driven by strong demand from Singapore’s key source markets, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
Get to know the photographers
Amani Azlin from Malaysia
Amani is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who expresses her passion for minimalism through her work for various local brands. When Amani is taking pictures, she goes in with her camera and doesn’t give it too much thought. It’s all about taking pictures in the moment and only scrutinising them afterwards. For her, it’s about capturing candid, unscripted moments in daily life, even when she’s travelling in a different country. As the only female photographer in the group, she offers a fresh take on travelling to must-visit sites with her passion for slow travel rather than touch-and-go experiences.
Jayaprakash Bojan from Singapore
Jayaprakash Bojan was National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year 2017. He is a nature-wildlife conservation artist whose work focuses on wildlife photography abroad. As someone who has lived in Singapore for around 7 years, the pandemic has pushed him to explore his own neighbourhood (particularly Pasir Ris Park) rather than places abroad. With this project, Jayaprakash rediscovers his home, Singapore, from a different perspective.
Tino Renato from Indonesia
A self-taught travel, food, portrait and still life photographer, Tino started his journey when he was younger, starting out with a film camera, and it remains his favourite medium for taking his pictures. For him, it’s all about capturing the raw moments of a place and its people and making them the focus of his pictures. It is what makes his photos appear simple while adding depth to the story as we can witness in the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE project.
Chanipol Kusolcharttum, also known as “Rockkhound”, from Thailand
After a few years of working as an air steward and travelling the world, Rockkhound decided to pursue and kickstart his passion for photography as a career, enabling him to continue exploring the world. The photographer-cinematographer from Bangkok started his photography journey about 10 years ago on Instagram while embracing the philosophy of slowing down to truly live in the moment and enjoy the scenery all around him when he is out and about. His style is to deliver motion and emotion, such as looking for an interesting composition to give some movement to still architecture in Singapore. He runs a production company in Bangkok, holds workshops and shares photo and filmmaking tips on his YouTube channel.
Phạm Gia Tùng from Vietnam
Tùng enjoys the photographic process – from scouting a location to finding new angles and setting up his shots, no matter how long it takes. The Hanoi-based photographer focuses on taking photos from angles people rarely consider, and constantly learning ways to improve his photography. Even though he has visited Singapore many times before, this project gave him the opportunity to appreciate and capture Singapore’s nature and people differently.
Gab Mejia from the Philippines
Gab is a National Geographic explorer and is passionate about wildlife photography and conservation. In 2021, he was awarded the World Wildlife Fund For Nature International President’s Youth Award and was also listed on the 2021 Forbes Under 30 List for The Arts in Asia for photography. His story started when his dad took him mountain climbing, sparking his interest in the natural world and the stories he could discover and capture behind it. His vision for this project is to show a different side of Singapore, capturing moments of the wild and pockets of nature.
UNSEEN/SINGAPORE will be open to the public on www.nationalgeographic.com/unseensingapore from 2 February 2023 inviting visitors to reimagine Singapore. The virtual exhibition will showcase each photographer’s ‘room’ based on their thematic-led collections. Viewers will be able to virtually visit many parts of Singapore including locations such as the Sim Kwong Ho shophouses, Pulau Ubin, Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle, Jurong Lake Gardens, Changi Chapel and Museum, and more.
To view the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE virtual exhibition, visit
To watch behind-the-scenes of UNSEEN/SINGAPORE, visit www.facebook.com/VisitSingaporeMY.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics carried out the Digital Leadership Academy (DLA) Programme to educate regional leaders and managers of commercial firms. The course seeks to improve the digital leadership capabilities of governors, regents, mayors, and business leaders. The government offers 500 training scholarships to public and commercial sector digital leaders.
This year, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ Human Resources Research and Development Agency cooperates with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Human Resources Development Agency to organise the training.
“We will conduct training and visits for 20 regional heads in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, and we have already decided on Korea,” told Hary Budiarto, Head of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics Research and Development, at the Press Conference of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics Digital Talent Provision Programme in Central Jakarta.
Hary noted that the DLA programme’s training and visitation in 2022 had been fully completed for 20 regional head participants, with Singapore serving as the destination country. The initiative will introduce another 20 regional heads in 2023, with the Ministry of Home Affairs determining the regional head qualifications. The chosen region will be picked based on various criteria, such as districts and cities with low inflation or high digital community indexes, among many others.
Last year, the ministry cooperated with the BPSDM West Java Province to host a Smart Digital Leader for the West Java Champion course. They have agreed with the Regional Secretary to choose the theme of Dignified North Sumatran Smart Digital Leader for North Sumatra, which will be completed in March.
Apart from the public sector, the DLA programme collaborates with the business sector, including the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) and a U.S. tech company focusing on digital infrastructure. The event will have 200 attendees.
The DLA programme is one of the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ digital training programmes meant to address the needs of national digital talent. President Joko Widodo has declared this programme a priority to advance the country’s digital transformation.
According to Abdullah Azwar Anas, Minister for Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB), digital leadership has become crucial in today’s increasingly connected society. He mentioned that leadership would become one of the options for success in managing foundations and organisations. In terms of digital leadership, it is expected that a public leader is more responsive and technologically literate to capture messages from the public and guide the organisation in the proper direction.
Digital skills are also required to assist the government in implementing an Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE). The SPBE architecture is intended to facilitate thematic bureaucratic reforms, such as the RB eradicating poverty, the RB raising investment, and the RB accelerating the President’s genuine priorities. He emphasised five talents required for digital governance. Digital leadership skills, digital professional skills, digital socio-emotional skills, digital user skills, and 21st-century skills in society are among them.
Furthermore, when it comes to digital leadership, leaders must possess two digital talents: hard and soft skills. Mastery of public sector theory and methodology on hard skills such as organisational theory, public sector human resource management, and public policy analysis, he stated, needs to be revised. As a minor subject, it requires help for mastery of theory and methods from other disciplines, particularly competence in digital technology.
Meanwhile, leaders must have analytical skills to analyse critically and propose problem-solving ideas. A leader must also be proficient in public speaking, English, coding, creativity, dispute resolution and negotiation, and teamwork.
Two tech companies operating under Hong Kong’s Smart Government Innovation Lab have rolled out solutions that are now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
Solution I – Heritage Conservation Platform
The company under the Lab has proposed a comprehensive solution for heritage conservation that encompasses data capture, 3D modelling, and online visualisation of realistically rendered models. It supports a variety of capturing sensors and raw data types, including camera images, LiDAR point clouds, and RGB-D data, and can be used with stationary, handheld, robotic, or UAV platforms. With high-precision modelling, realistic texturing and rendering, and a lightweight web-based visualisation platform, this solution is ideal for archiving, exhibiting, renovating, and educational purposes.
The solution was designed to be applied in the areas of City Management, Education, Infrastructure, Recreation and Culture as well as Tourism.
The solution employs the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, Deep Learning, Mixed Reality as well as Virtual Reality.
In Hong Kong, there are 132 declared monuments and over 1000 historic buildings with significant heritage value. To safeguard and preserve this archaeological and architectural heritage, a comprehensive 3D surveying record is essential for future preservation and monitoring against potential damage or destruction.
Currently, LiDAR scanning and image records are widely used for digital preservation, but the disorganized data and large size make them difficult to use and constructing 3D models from raw scanning data is time-consuming and labour-intensive.
The company has developed a cutting-edge AI-assisted algorithm that can accurately convert raw captured data into 3D models at a cost-effective price. The structured 3D models have the advantage of low data volume, ease of access, and meaningful information for engineers. The solution offered is modular and covers the entire process from data collection to 3D model generation and online visualization, offering great flexibility.
To raise public awareness, promote participation, and enhance cultural tourism, the company provides a realistically rendered 3D model and a lightweight, web-browser-based visualization that can be accessed from anywhere and on any device.
Solution II – LifeOnline: Smart Personal Emergency System for Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers face various dangers on a regular basis. LifeOnline is a tool that keeps officers, especially those working alone in remote areas, connected with their team. In emergency situations, officers can seek help from their supervisor by pressing an SOS button on their smartphone. If they encounter danger, such as falling from a height or a medical emergency, the smartwatch will notify their team.
Using long-range wireless communication technology, LoraWAN, officers can stay connected even in remote areas covered by the government’s GWIN IOT network. If necessary, portable LoraWAN gateways and concentrators can further extend network coverage. The compact size of the smartwatch allows it to be used as standard equipment for law enforcement officers in their daily operations.
The solution was designed to be applied across the areas of Health as well as Law and Security.
The solution employs the latest in Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as Mobile Technologies.
The officers are connected with their teams and could get help in dangerous and emergency situations.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology (MeitY), Alkesh Kumar Sharma, inaugurated the G20 Cyber Security Exercise and Drill for over 400 domestic and international participants as part of India’s G20 presidency.
The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) held the Cyber Security Exercise and Drill in a hybrid format. International participants from over 12 countries participated online. Domestic participants from various sectors like finance, education, telecom, ports and shipping, energy, IT/ITeS, and others attended both in person and virtually.
Speaking at the event, Sharma highlighted the fact that cyber incidents are becoming increasingly sophisticated and disruptive. They have transnational impacts and there is a pressing need for collaboration to build collective resilience against cyberattacks.
Sivagami Sundari Nanda, the Special Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), stressed the importance of a government-wide response to address cyber challenges, including cooperation with law enforcement agencies both domestically and internationally.
The event held a strategic tabletop exercise (TTX) and an operational drill using a CERT-In exercise platform. The first tabletop exercise catered to board and top management and was themed Synergy to counter Global Cyber Crisis. It focused on crisis management and crisis communication.
The second tabletop exercise, an operational drill was designed for CISO and mid-management, themed Building Collective Cyber Resilience. The scenario for the exercise, which included cyber extortion, data breach, supply chain attacks, and disruptions was derived from real-life cyber incidents, in which domestic-level (limited impact) incidents escalated to a global cyber security crisis. The exercises were successful in meeting their objectives and provided insights on enhancing and improving crisis management, crisis communication, incident response, and global coordination and cooperation.
Cybersecurity plays an increasingly important role as the world becomes more reliant on technology. Cybersecurity forms the backbone of a strong digital society, providing a trusted environment necessary to grow digital transformation and the confidence needed to advance digital adoption. Concurrently, strong cyber capability protects the economy from losses due to cybercrimes and builds the foundational capability to grow the emerging digital technology sector.
India has worked with several countries to build resilience against cyberattacks. Last year, CERT-In and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) designed and conducted the cybersecurity exercise “Synergy” for 13 countries. The initiative was part of the International Counter Ransomware Initiative-Resilience Working Group, which was led by India under the leadership of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS).
The theme of the exercise was ‘Building Network Resiliency to counter Ransomware Attacks’. Similar to the G20 cybersecurity drill, the exercise scenario was derived from real-life cyber incidents. As OpenGov Asia reported, the specific objective of the exercise was to assess, share, and improve strategies and practices among member-states to build network resiliency against ransomware and cyber extortion attacks.
The exercise ‘Synergy’ was hosted by CERT-In on its exercise simulation platform. Each state participated as a National Crisis Management Team, which was made up of different government agencies including National CERTs/CSIRTs, law enforcement agencies (LEA), communication and IT/ICT ministries, and security agencies.
CERT-In was launched in 2004 by the Department of Information Technology and is currently run under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. CERT-In responds to cybersecurity incidents, reports on network vulnerabilities, and fosters effective IT security practices throughout the country. Under the provisions of the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008, CERT-In oversees the administration of the Act.
Market merchants in Quezon City, Philippines, can now apply for and book spaces and booths online using the Market One-Stop Shop platform (MOSS). According to City Administrator Michael Alimurung, the portal would identify “legal” vendor spaces free of impediments. It is also part of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte’s ambition of making the city a desirable business location.
With the new system, the city government promises a smooth application process for renting a stall, including payment and collection of market rentals. This will also make the city treasurer’s office’s job easier because they will no longer have to collect rent in person.
To ensure that the new system is widely adopted, the local administration put free Wi-Fi connection points in barangay halls and hundreds of other public venues. A caravan will be launched to assist existing and prospective vendors in registering with the platform.
“Imagine treating the entire city as a public market. This method allows us to locate vendor locations online. It’s thinking broader by allowing us to treat the entire city in terms of how to assist our vendors,” Alimurung told at a press conference at Quezon City Hall.
Margarita Santos, director of the Quezon City Business Permits and Licensing Office, stated that the system would not replace any positions, such as market masters or market managers, but would make their tasks easier.
She stated that the MOSS would use a “first in, first out” queuing system and offer a five-year contract to the first vendor that applied for the space or stand. However, if they cannot satisfy the requirements within a specific number of days, they will be returned to the bottom of the queue,” Santos noted.
Market inspectors will check IDs supplied to registered merchants to guarantee that the correct renters occupy registered booths. Currently, over 12,000 sellers occupy public market stalls in the city. Those are our objectives. In addition, we want to incorporate 43 private markets.
According to Santos, the MOSS would also assist in eliminating red tape and corruption, such as those who reserve marketplaces and then rent them out to other merchants. Because this is an online system, we have a digital trail that allows us to see where the application took too long, who is at fault and admonish them.
Santos added that the system would also record vendor transgressions, which might result in losing their registration area or stall. She stated that registered vendors would be queued online once these areas are full until free space becomes available.
Procopio Lipana, Programmes and Projects Officer, stated that the site would make it easier for the city government and other law enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend unlawful sellers. Quezon City has an anti-hawker division and market inspectors who verify stall sizes and look for illicit merchants.
Indonesia is also working to improve digitisation in the conventional sector. Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade has targeted digitising 1,000 traditional markets and one million MSMEs as part of its digital transformation strategy. There are now 2,047 traditional markets that use local market websites through the Trade Facility Information System (TFIS), ten traditional markets that use digital marketing, and 51 conventional markets that operate QRIS for non-cash transactions.
According to Vice Minister of Trade Jerry Sambuaga, 326 traditional markets in 42 sub-districts have implemented e-retribution, 106,702 local traders, and 9.7 million MSME dealers have made non-cash transactions through QRIS.
The government of Indonesia’s digitalisation efforts have helped the country attain IDR980 trillion (US$ 63 billion), or 5.7% of GDP, by 2021. Indonesia’s GDP is predicted to reach IDR24 trillion (US$1.5 trillion) in 2030, with the digital economy accounting for 18% of GDP, or approximately IDR4,531 trillion (US$ 290 million).
Indonesia’s Central Bank (Bank Indonesia/BI) worked with five ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand, to provide cross-border payment through QR. In a series of events at the G20 Bali Summit, the five ASEAN countries agreed on Regional Payment Digital Connectivity. The collaboration will make the Indonesian Standard Quick Response Code (QRIS) more widely available in five ASEAN countries.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics welcomed the discussion. Usman Kansong, Director General of Information and Public Communication at the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kemkominfo) asserted that the ministry supports efforts to integrate payment systems through QRIS ASEAN.
“Because it is related to the digital economy, Kominfo is very supportive; we will provide the infrastructure. For example, we are also putting together an internet network,” said Usman on the sidelines of Jakarta’s 2023 ASEAN Indonesia Chair Kick-Off event.
The five countries’ central banks have held discussions on various occasions to implement cross-border payment system connectivity in the region. Bank Indonesia began payment system connectivity cooperation with other central banks in the area, initially with five countries in the region.
The agreement will be documented as a memorandum of understanding (MOU). At the same time, this initiative demonstrates Indonesia’s regional leadership in implementing the G20 agreement.
Regional Payment Digital Connection among 5 ASEAN Countries, according to Governor of Bank Indonesia (BI) Perry Warjiyo, is a physical representation of how digital connectivity in ASEAN is an example for other countries to help economic recovery in each country regionally.
“Wherever we go in these five ASEAN countries, we can utilise QR payment, QRIS in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, and it will be a rapid payment system, instantly,” Perry explained.
Meanwhile, according to Esther Sri Astuti Soeryaningrum from an economic and finance NGO, the introduction of QRIS will aid financial integration in ASEAN. At the same time, there are still some hurdles to tackle. However, she mentioned that QRIS, as a non-cash transaction method, can help collaborating countries make cross-border payments easier without needing a money changer.
“With QRIS, we don’t have to worry about converting rupiah currency for other currencies, and we don’t have to do cash transactions, which are riskier and require a higher level of security,” she explained.
Moreover, the Indonesia Central Bank (Bank Indonesia/BI) expanded its payment cooperation network with Japan in December. The signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation (NK) addressing QR-based payment by BI and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI). Dody B. Waluyo, Deputy Governor of BI, stated that the partnership on QR-based payment between BI and METI Japan would be a key concern for regulatory authorities and industry, given that the NK in question has the potential to strengthen economic relations between Indonesia and Japan.
The QR-based payment collaboration aims to accelerate cooperation on the implementation and interoperability of cross-border or country payments using QR codes, specifically the QR Code Indonesian Standard (QRIS) and the Japan Unified QR Code (JPQR). Furthermore, this collaboration will create a framework that permits QR-based payments between the two countries and other parties, such as payment system operators (SP).
The agreement marks the beginning of BI and METI Japan’s collaboration to carry out various activities related to the interconnectivity of QR-based payment systems, such as policy dialogue, technical cooperation, and the formation of working groups to ensure goals are met, such as efforts to implement QR-based cross-border payments to support people-to-people transactions in both countries. This collaboration is expected to promote payment system digitisation in both Indonesia and Japan.
HKUST and ASTRI announced that they will be partnering to establish an initial Joint PhD programme through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU was signed by HKUST’s Provost and ASTRI’s Chief Executive Officer at HKUST’s campus in the presence of HKUST’s President and ASTRI’s Board of Directors Chairman.
As per the MoU, HKUST and ASTRI will jointly screen and select eligible candidates who will work as full-time R&D staff at ASTRI while pursuing a part-time PhD degree at HKUST. The selected candidates will have the chance to participate in leading-edge research projects that encompass artificial intelligence, big data, wireless communications, smart city, and advanced materials. Additionally, they will also be involved in R&D projects related to their PhD studies. Experienced R&D staff members from ASTRI may be appointed as HKUST’s adjunct professors and serve as co-supervisors for the PhD students.
With the backing of the nation, the Hong Kong government emphasised the significance of advancing innovation and technology (I&T) in the “2022 Policy Address.” The “I&T Development Blueprint” created by the government in December outlines a comprehensive plan for Hong Kong’s I&T growth in the next 5 to 10 years, including strategies such as improving the I&T environment and expanding the pool of I&T talent.
The Joint PhD programme aims to contribute to these efforts by fostering talent who can turn their research into commercial success while gaining the necessary knowledge and credentials to prepare for their careers.
The Chairman of the ASTRI Board of Directors stated that as Hong Kong’s top R&D organisation, ASTRI is dedicated to supporting the government’s initiatives outlined in the “I&T Development Blueprint” and “Competing for Talents” plans.
The first launch of the Joint PhD Programme with HKUST is anticipated to draw and retain talented individuals in I&T who want to pursue PhD studies or research in Hong Kong, thereby providing a strong pool of I&T talent to help make Hong Kong a smart city and a global hub for I&T.
The President of HKUST stated that the University is committed to its mission of promoting knowledge through education and research. With its strong foundation in basic research and partnerships with various industrial partners, including ASTRI, HKUST is well-positioned to bridge the gap between fundamental and applied research.
This will not only enhance Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem, cultivate top-notch talent for Hong Kong, the nation, and beyond, but also enable the commercialisation of HKUST’s research results for the benefit of society.
The Chief Executive Officer of ASTRI stated that bringing research and development results to fruition is a central objective of ASTRI. To maintain close ties with the academic community, the Memorandum of Understanding with HKUST was signed to foster joint R&D and technology commercialisation in February 2022, followed by this Joint PhD Programme a year later. The programme is expected to will effectively sharpen students’ creativity, critical thinking, and global perspective, enhancing their competitiveness on a global scale and hastening the implementation of HKUST’s R&D breakthroughs.
HKUST’s Provost expressed excitement about the joint PhD programme with ASTRI, stating that it is crucial to talent development for Hong Kong’s growth into an international innovation and technology hub.
The programme will use the strengths of both organisations to provide specialists with opportunities to acquire skills and qualifications while conducting R&D projects. The programme is expected to enhance Hong Kong’s talent development and expand its talent pool.